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POPULATION POLICIES AND ETHICAL ACCEPTABILITY                                  629
own genetic continuity. One should be free to express one's gratitude to one's parents and to honor their desire for continuity in the human community; one should be free to seek a place in the memory of future generations. If our lives are to be deprived of any choices in establishing these links to the past and the future, we have lost a great deal of what life is all about and, indeed, we have lost the most predictable way known to us of extending our lives on this earth. Very few people achieve immortality on earth in other ways. Compulsory, irreversible sterilization, I would contend, is not an ethically acceptable method of curbing birth rates.
Our draft system is often used as an analogy for justifying the use of compulsion to meet the needs of society. A just war, fought with just means, as a last resort, and in self-defense, would seem to justify conscription. But even in this situation, conscientious objectors are exempted from military service. Population policies should make a similar provision for those who cannot in good conscience submit to sterilization, or have an abortion, or stay for other reasons within a given rationing scheme. Presumably, when population problems are a clear and present danger, most people will wish to limit the number of their children. Precedents in human history are now well known; hunter-gather societies now being studied in the deserts of Africa keep their populations at levels that guarantee them ample food and leisure for what they regard as the good life (37). They have what modern societies will need to develop, namely a very keen appreciation of the limits of their environment and their own technical capacities to benefit from it without harming it.
Although I believe it is wise to sort out in advance what forms of compulsion would be least evil as last resorts, I consider any compulsory control of birth rates unjustifiable now and in the indefinite future for at least three reasons. First, famines and environmental deterioration are not exclusively a function of population growth rates; second, more practical and ethically acceptable alternatives to compulsion exist and have not yet been sufficiently tested; and third, there are distinct benefits associated with small families which can be facilitated and the knowledge of which can be more widely disseminated.
Questions of Benefits and Harms
Nutritional deficiencies and ecological imbalances will not be eradicated simply by reducing or even halting growth rates. To overcome these harms, agricultural development and pollution abatement will be necessary even if
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